SmokersIf you think your cigarettes are getting even more expensive, you're right. In the past 10 years, 47 states and the District of Columbia have implemented 105 cigarette tax rate increases. (In contrast, Missouri and North Dakota haven't raised cigarette taxes since 1993, while California last hiked them up in 1999.)

According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, states currently charge an average of $1.47 in taxes on each pack of cigarettes. As a result, the average price for a pack of smokes in the United States is now $5.58, though the price fluctuates wildly by geography. In Missouri -- the state with the nation's cheapest retail price -- a pack costs $3.93, while in New York -- the most expensive state -- it's a whopping $9.11. And that's outside New York City. Here in the five boroughs, where there are additional city taxes, a pack can cost anywhere from $11 to $13.

The average smoker burns through 13 to 16 cigarettes a day, or four to six packs a week. That adds up. The average smoker forks over at least $1,500 a year, while here in New York City, it's closer to $3,300.

But because smoking, like takeout food and store-made coffee, hits our wallets in a series of small purchases, it can be easy to overlook how much you're spending. Still, it has a psychological impact: One of many reasons governments implement cigarette taxes is to reduce smoking among price-conscious consumers.

It works: Research shows that people smoke less as cigarettes get more expensive. As tobacco giant Philip Morris (PM) stated in its 10-Q for the Securities and Exchange Commission on Nov. 3, 2008, "Tax increases are expected to continue to have an adverse impact on sales of tobacco products by our tobacco subsidiaries, due to lower consumption levels."

Smokers will have a lot to ponder in coming months, as the Department of Health and Human Services implements its new packaging policy requiring warning labels that include graphic photos of the health damages caused by smoking. In the meantime, we wanted to know how sensitive smokers are to the price of their cigarettes, so we hit the streets of Manhattan during lunchtime to find out.

Gallery: What a smoker's budget could purchase

Loren Berlin is a columnist at She can be reached at You can follow her on Twitter @LorenBerlin, and become a fan on Facebook.

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Timothy Piggot-Smith

What about the people who are stealing cigarettes, and who are buying large quantities out of state? Its called the underground economy and people don't care one iota about paying taxes to New York, in fact the Big Apple has just lost $85 billion per year because people are fed up, this is what happens when you get Liberals like obama and Blooming Idiot, no ciggies, no salt allowed, even the amount of water per flush. Here's a suggestion: M O V E out of New York to a place where the cigarettes are cheaper.

November 24 2011 at 5:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Steve Paul

One again the smokeing nazis have lost. I know im below iq as one writer put it however with growing our own tobacco, makeing our own beer, and have our own smoke, drinking speak easy ( hope i spelled that right) the money flows away from state coffers and at 2 bucks a carton to make is it too much to ask 9 bucks a carton? At a 1000 cartons a week 7000 profit a week is my iq damaged or did i do the math wrong? Welcome to prohibition 2011 style!!! Opps bootleggers??????????????????????

September 12 2011 at 12:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brainless One

Chess argues below that smokers don't pay enough taxes to cover their health care. The truth is actually the reverse. Read "Taxes, Social Costs, and the MSA" at:

and you'll see that smokers are actually subsidizing the health care of NONsmokers overall.


June 25 2011 at 8:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Smokers, I am one, are the only true Patriots - we stuff the Treasuries with $$, and we supposedly will die sooner - saving SS and Medicare. Think I could get a Federal Grant to prove that the obesity epidemic is related to the push to stop smokers? Laugh - but go back and look at the stats.

June 24 2011 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to fraudman1's comment

You don't supposedly die sooner from smoking, you DO die sooner from smoking.

That aside, unfortunately, you won't save the health care system or SSI any money by dying earlier, at least when all smokers are considered as a group. While some smokers DO go out young, most smoking related diseases and cancers are still diseases of relatively old age, and while they do indeed shorten your life as an older person, the health costs in those final years of (very miserable) life are enormous.

Lung cancer is usually the biggest fear, and/or the most discussed result of smoking. But less than 13% of all lung cancer patients are diagnosed before age 50.........the majority don't show up until they are well into the 60-70 age range, and on SSI and Medicare's dime. Most smoking related heart disease shows up in about the same age range too, as well as other carciovascular problems like massive strokes. The initial diagnosis of COPD/Emphysema is almost always past age 50 when the first symptoms start showing up.....but the actual disease progression is such that the really costly treatments to keep those patients alive (clear up to a full time nursing facility at the end, hooked up to a ventillator) don't usually occur until one is in their Social Security/Medicare years. In a nutshell, the vast majority of smoking related cancer, heart, stroke, and lung patients tend to be in the 60--75 year age range. They're in the SSI/Medicare years.

Right now, if you're a pack a day smoker, paying an average tax of about $2.50 a're contributing about $900 a year. The first trip to your family doctor, who then refers you to a pulmonologist or a cardiologist to diagnose your first bad smoking-related disease symptoms (shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, etc) will cost that much alone, just for the initial visits. Tests to find out just what's going on inside you will probably run five grand. If you're really unlucky and discover it's late stage lung cancer, your first round of chemo and radiation will cost more in your initial ten weeks of treatment than you've paid out in taxes for the past ten years. If you get sort of a reprieve and are 'only' diagnosed with smoking related coronary disease--one major heart surgery will run more than you've paid out in taxes for your entire lifetime. A lingering 15 year death from emphysema isn't cheap either.

And again, statistically, all of these things will hit you during your SSI/Medicare years. They WILL shorten your life, but your medical costs in those last few years of life will be comparitively huge. And if it comes before age 63, unless you've got millions in assets to pay for your own care, you'll wind up bankrupt and on Medicaid, once again costing the taxpayers. And whatever the diagnosis, and however long you linger with any of those smoking related diseases, it WILL run far more than the $900 a year tax you pay.

Youre a burden, not a conttibutor.

June 25 2011 at 10:54 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to chessgms2's comment

That's why women in their 70's have younger relatives wondering why their elders won't heed their caution.

June 25 2011 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

I forgot to add, the women in their 70's never took a day off from work, are healthier than their non-smoking grandchildren, and have their doctors stymied, shaking their educated head, telling them "I don't understand."

June 25 2011 at 12:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

That's how I went from my highest weight of 170 (for me @ 5'10") to 197.

June 25 2011 at 11:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

with obama care coming......the non-smokers can pay more for ins.

June 24 2011 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

new york has been going broke since john lindsey was mayor. sadly enough, now it needs to tax people out of their habits. it would be nice to know where these millions are spent, since we do not seem to have money to fix any highways or streets.

June 24 2011 at 2:24 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

We need a national deposit paid on cigarette Butts This would help get the billions of them fron streets, rivers ocean and every other place. Pluss all the people on unemployment could work get healthy and prosper

June 24 2011 at 1:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

buy them online and only pay 15.00/carton

June 24 2011 at 1:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Keep on smoking. Did you know the average smoker is below average in IQ? It dulls the brain.

June 24 2011 at 1:38 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to granaryst's comment

No, Alcohol does. Try reading our 2nd president, John Adams. His correspondence is available in a package called the Adams Chronicles. If you can do this without having a dictionary sitting in your lap my hat is off to you. Besides, some are just a bit brighter than others. Some do both, and it hardly makes us retards.

June 25 2011 at 9:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i dont think they should charge sales tax on the state and fed tax that is triple dipping

June 24 2011 at 11:32 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply